Spaces for Joy
I don’t want to write about “the meaning of Christmas.” I don’t know what that is yet. So I want to write about space.
There’s this beautiful story I heard once about a mother and daughter out skiing, and they took a walk late at night to see the snow falling on the trees and in the lights. At one point, they found themselves at the foot of an enormous pine tree, an enclave shaded from the swirling flakes. They paused. They listened to the silence. And the daughter looked at her mother and said, “Is that what God sounds like?”
Christmastime is not easy. Too often, it’s a reminder of all our world is not. The songs on the radio sing for peace on earth, but the world feels always at war and the United States feels more divided than ever. Department stores are all decked out for the holidays, but too many people can’t afford what’s being sold. All the heartwarming movies remind us of the perfect families we don’t have, the good memories we don’t have, the presents and money and time we don’t have.
We get stressed. We get tired. We would be anyway, probably; life is hard, and we all carry a lot of baggage that we don’t tell anyone about, and it gets really heavy when everyone is too stressed and too tired to help us hold it. And then Christmas comes along and tends to kind of add to it all.
But still, in the middle of it all, there are shaded spaces.
There’s the way lights look on foggy mornings. Free coffee days at Dunkin. Good playlists on Spotify. Good people sitting next to you at the bar, who give up their seat on the subway, who catch your eye and smile instead of looking away.
There are people who care about you and people you care about.
There are poems that make you stop and realize your own heartbeat, books that steal hours from you before you raise your eyes, TV shows that spark the liveliest conversations. There are words that matter, spoken or that go without saying.
There is the promise of starting over, starting something new. And sometimes, the promise, the waiting for fulfillment, is every bit as beautiful as the real thing.
There are all these things that, granted, exist pretty much any other time of year. But they look different in snowscapes and Christmas lights. Their pre-existence does not make them less meaningful.
Just before Thanksgiving, I decided that each day I was going to think of a “grateful moment” before I went to bed, an exercise I’d been challenged to try the year before and loved. This year, too, no matter how lonely I felt that day, no matter how much “fear of missing out” struck me when friends could be together without me, no matter how much I would have given to be sleeping away another finals week instead of being stuck at work—still, every day had a moment, and often more than one.
Some of the names and things I’ve written are things I expected to write—texts and phone calls from friends, my wonderful coworkers, my family. Others are more surprising—the barista who knew my order when I walked in the café doors, a work project that I mostly complained about but found myself proud of.
At the end of each day, I’m deliberating between more options than I expected, to choose a single moment or single thing to be grateful for. I find myself marveling at how blessed I am to have those options.
I hope that this Christmas, you find something to be grateful for, that you find the joyful spaces in every day. I hope you find it in the spaces between darkness and sunrise, when we totally shouldn’t still be awake. Or the space between your alarm going off and actually getting out of bed. Or all the spaces filled between starting a hug and letting go.
I hope this season, you find God in loud music, quiet laughter, and silence.
And I hope you find a meaning to Christmas for yourself.
[Note: This post is a modified post originally published on The Rock at BC.]